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What it Takes to Foster a Test and Learn Culture

December 10, 2020


If you ever want to get whiplash, read some marketing headlines from the past several months of 2020 as we have navigated the coronavirus. Some shout how the world will never be the same, while others counter that the center holds and normalcy will return. At the same time, another wave of the virus is raging while the stock market booms, unemployment persists, and the one real certainty is that no one seems to know what is going to happen as we head into 2021.

 

It is clear that, at least in the short term, the world has been thrown a huge curveball. Business leaders have had to throw previous plans in the trash and rethink many approaches. And while some may claim that analytics can’t effectively leverage historical results to predict outcomes given this non-regular event, we have found that many fundamentals still hold true. There are robust and viable ways to holistically measure marketing, even in uncertain times.

 

In fact, data and analytics have become even more important due to these challenges, and those who want to adapt must also adapt their measurement approaches.

 

One challenge marketers face is the quickly changing consumer behaviors through this crisis. We have not only seen accelerated shifts to ecommerce and DTC, but also shifting consumer priorities as people develop an increased interest in their health. And of course, many families face or will face economic challenges. Will some of these changes stick?

 

Change is not all bad though. Over the past two decades we at Analytic Partners have seen many trends lift companies who were either lucky or proactively leaned into a trend. This can result in meaningful business growth which can be amplified with a strong marketing and product support.

 

But how do you identify these trends and understand which changes will stick? Business leaders need forget gut feelings and make data-driven decisions. To succeed in uncertainty, companies must create a test and learn culture to allow them to move quickly, test, measure and repeat. While each industry and brand will be impacted differently, those who move away from slow and infrequently updated insights toward always-on holistic measurement will be able to quickly respond to changes.

 

A holistic measurement framework that includes controllable, non-controllable, macro-factors, and the ability to isolate the impact of Covid-19 (and other disruptions) is an approach all businesses should adopt. And in order to be prepared for a range of outcomes, businesses must leverage scenario planning, refining those plans as the latest insights are available.

 

For immediate intelligence that can help companies quickly evolve with the market, business leaders must leverage test and learn solutions and drive a culture of experimentation. Developing a data-driven program of test and learn allows businesses to quickly prove out learnings and identify potential risks – whether understanding the impact of disruptions, creative messaging, changes in stores, or changes in pricing or products.

 

What can keep organizations better positioned to face market challenges and improve business performance? Testing that goes beyond traditional test/control comparisons to capture and quantify current complexities, measures multiple KPIs and can limit bias and contamination. And business leaders can’t just stop at collecting the insights – they need to be actionable and feed back into measurement frameworks in order to forecast expansion of any tested strategies.

 

We may not know where the current rollercoaster will leave us, but we can all be smarter about planning for what is around the next corner, and be better prepared for what comes after by creating a test and learn culture.

 

- Konstantinos Spetsaris, SVP

 

 

 

 

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